UCLA Women's Tennis Stuns No. 1 Stanford in NCAA Semifinals

By Ajaybir Behniwal Daily Bruin

May 22, 2007

Los Angeles, CA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- ATHENS, Ga. ­­­­­- The third time was most definitely the charm.

When the No. 12 UCLA women's tennis team took on top-seeded Stanford for the third time this season, the Bruins were finally able to topple the Cardinal 4-2, earning a berth into the NCAA championship match where they will take on third-seeded Georgia Tech.

'There are really no words to describe the feeling,' UCLA coach Stella Sampras Webster said. 'We've played them so many times and they've been so tough to beat. For us to beat them here, it's just unbelievable.'

During the regular season, the Bruins (21-7) suffered two 4-3 losses at the hands of the Cardinal, but knew they were capable of overthrowing the reigning champions if they got another chance. So, when the chance presented itself, the Bruins took full advantage of the opportunity, improving where they knew they needed to and pulling out their first win over the fellow Pac-10 team in over nine years.

UCLA entered the match playing as one of the top teams in the nation, riding a streak of quality wins into the Dan Magill Tennis Complex on Monday night. On their way to the chance to play for the NCAA title, the Bruins have beaten No. 5 Northwestern, No. 4 Florida and now No. 1 Stanford, showing that their postseason run is by no means a fluke.

'I think when we go out, we really don't feel that we're the underdogs,' junior Elizabeth Lumpkin said. 'We feel that we can beat any team we play.'

'It feels like we chose the right time to peak,' sophomore Ashley Joelson added.

With the Bruins up 3-2 and needing just one more win in singles play to clinch the win, it was Joelson who stepped up her play and put the pressure on Stanford's Whitney Deason in the third set of their match on court No. 4.

Joelson, after losing the first set in a tie-breaker, was able to even the score with a second-set win, but was facing a pair of break points late in the third set.

After coming back to win the game and make it 5-3, the sophomore was able to take a quick lead in the next game and earn herself two match points. But Deason did not let up easily, and came back to win the next two points before Joelson fought for her third match point.

She realized what was at stake with her match and tried to play the way she had for much of the match - with confidence and success from the baseline against the hard-hitting Cardinal.

Joelson did just that on the next point and sealed the win for the Bruins to send them to their fifth NCAA Championship match in the program's history, as they became the lowest seeded team to ever appear in the finals since the 64-team format was established.

'That's the best feeling in the world right there,' Joelson said after her teammates stormed her court and embraced her. 'I just knew I had to focus on the moment. That's the great thing about tennis: You have three sets to do what you need to do.'

Though the Bruins ended the match the way they wanted to, it was the beginning of the match, during the doubles point, when the team believed it had done exactly what it needed to set the stage for the end result.

In the Bruins' two losses to the Cardinal during the season, they had dropped the doubles point, but were able to capture three victories in singles on both occasions, making it evident that they had put themselves in the best possible situation if they captured the match's opening point.

And just as the Bruins have done throughout their tournament run, they were able to successfully capture two wins in doubles and gain the confidence and momentum they felt was crucial before heading into singles play.

From there, freshman Yasmin Schnack and junior Tracy Lin were able to provide UCLA with two more pivotal points. But for Lin it was not easy, as she found herself in a deep hole from the very start of the match.

'When I got down 3-0, I started to take it one point at a time,' said Lin, after her first ever win over No. 17 Anne Yelsey. 'A point became a game, a game became a set, and then the set became a match.'

For the Bruins, the one-point-at-a-time philosophy has proven successful, as they find themselves in the championship match against the Yellow Jackets, the only other team to defeat the Cardinal in the past three years.

'This team has been all about, 'We can do it, but we haven't,'' Lin said. 'Now we've finally shown everyone and achieved our goals. We only have one more goal left and that's a national championship.'

(C) 2007 Daily Bruin via CSTV U-WIRE

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